Look at the size of this radish my husband dug out of our field yesterday. We put a cover crop of peas and radish in one of the fields that we pasture our cows in. Cover crops are great for increasing the soil health, prevent soil erosion and enhance water availability. This crop was raised with only cow manure for nutrition, no fertilizers or pesticides were used allowing our grass fed beef to stay all natural. They should enjoy the peas and radishes this fall when we let them in to graze the field. Even cows need to eat their vegetables :).
We would like to introduce our new little farm girl, Samantha Marion Ensor. Born July 18th right here on the family farm! She was supposed to be born at the birthing center in Spokane but she was in a hurry, so daddy got to deliver his daughter, just like he’s delivered many many other babies, right here on the farm. She’s the first human baby to be born on the farm in many generations. Midwife just came to the farm instead and arrived half an hour later :). Thank you so much Spokane Midwives, for being the best midwives we could ask for, for giving us great care and being so flexible!
Picture taken by Four E Photography
Today I thought I’d tell a story of how we got where we are today. We used to be like most regular ranches, which there’s nothing wrong with that, but this is just a story about how we changed. First, my mother in law, a huge animal lover, and not too keen on having to run for her life, changed the breeding program along with my father in law to the more gentle, docile red angus breed. Getting the most calmest level headed red angus bulls and keeping only gentle replacement heifers (young female cows), we now have the most sweetest cows that love scratches and pets. We prefer to have calmer cows as they’re less stressed and it’s also easier to make sure they’re healthy. We also stopped grain feeding our calves after they were weaned, since it wasn’t very healthy for them anyway.
After my husband finished his degree in agriculture, his mom put him in charge of the hay fields. It was important to him that the fields were kept healthy so that our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren would still be able to produce nice crops from our fields. So with that in mind he started using fertilizers that would not harm the ground (why would farmers use harmful fertilizers you ask? Because certain fertilizers will instantly provide nutrients to the plants and you will see the effects right away, but they are not as good to the soil health). The fertilizers we use now may take 1-3 years to be available to the plants, but they do not burn and therefore mycorrhizae fungi (a fungi that has a symbiotic relationship with the plants), beneficial bacteria and earthworms are able to thrive in our soil. My husband is thrilled with the large amount of earthworms we now find in our fields whereas we used to find none.
The decision to make sure there was still fertile ground many generations from now had many additional benefits. He started selling hay to locals that had horses and they were amazed with the increase in energy and health of their horses and some of our customers said they were able to completely take their horses off their supplements and their coats still had a healthy shine to them. Our cows thrived too, this was especially noticeable by the quality of their milk and the health and size of their calves they brought home at the end of the summer.
Despite all these changes making the life better for the animals on the farm, our cows were still sold to larger outfits where they go to large feedlots to be grain fed. So when I met my husband I asked him why he wasn’t selling grass fed beef locally… So that people that TRULY appreciate all the work he put into his soil, hay and cows could also enjoy the high quality meat we produced. So with my help, we started our grass fed beef program. The biggest benefit, to us, is that it is much better for our cows because these cows are born on our place and never ever have to leave their home because the butcher comes to our place. It saves them the stress of having to travel in a trailer with strange cows for many days and going a feed lots and then being shipped to a slaughter plant that probably smells like death. Unfortunately, most of our animals are still sold in the fall, but we set aside our best (and favorite) calves to feed through the winter. We hope to someday sell all our cows locally, but it is hard to predict how much grass fed beef we will sell by spring, so therefore it is important to get your orders in early in the fall!